Greg Pierce of ACTA Publication is a pioneer on Spirituality in the Workplace and his outstanding books on the subject make him my mentor. He’s the one who first got me to think about the role of my Catholic faith in my work and he continues to inspire me with his insights. He has graciously given me permission to use the following from a new book he is writing for Ave Maria press which will be coming out next year.

Greg explains that there are four basic things he has learned about work and spirituality.

1) We NEED to work. “The human spirit constantly strives to shape its surroundings. I call that effort work—whether it is paid or unpaid, important or insignificant, socially recognized or not. Even those of us who are young or old, retired or unemployed, sick or disabled work in this sense. Artists, musicians, parents and grandparents and children, entertainers, poets—all try to shape their surroundings, and in so doing they work. While a large part of work for most people includes paid employment, jobs are not the sum total of our work.”

Greg’s wisdom is once again evident in these words. When I go to visit my 86 year old mother in the assisted living facility where she lives, I am always struck by the fact that those who remain engaged with the world; those who, in other words, continue to find meaningful “work” in their lives are most fully alive. 

 2. Authentic Spirituality requires work. “We cannot practice authentic spirituality if our work is not part of it. Thus work is an “essential” element of spirituality. In fact, work is such a basic element of the human experience that any spirituality must address it or be found wanting. Without taking work into account, our spiritual life is left to the margins of our lives—to that small area that is ‘not-work.’”

Given that we spend most of our lives either sleeping or working, trying to crowd spirituality into what’s left is a fool’s errand. Not that we haven’t all tried it, but eventually we come to realize that if our entire lives aren’t infused with our spiritual then we are merely sleepwalking through life.

 3. Spirituality is not an end in itself. “Spirituality is not supposed to make us ‘feel’ better (or worse, for that matter). Spirituality is a means to an end, and that end is our action in the world. ‘Action-in-the-world’ is another pretty good definition of work. Our spiritual practice must result in action-in-the-world, for otherwise the spiritual life is a thing unto itself, leading nowhere.” 

How many of us know someone who is very “spiritual” and yet never does a lick of real work? Compare that person with a Mother Teresa or any of the saints, for that matter. Even the most spiritual, such as Thérèse of Lisieux still spent time doing what we would all consider “work” including laundry, scrubbing floors, making beds and gardening.

4. Spirituality leads us to God. “If it is done in a spiritual (that is, a competent, caring, compassionate) way, our work will lead us back to that same God who has sent us forth to do our work in the first place. Conversely, by doing our work in accordance with the Spirit of God we will experience a deeper spiritual communion both with God and with one another.”

Bravo, Greg. I couldn’t have said it better.